ALCS preview: Astros rank higher in Box-Toppers team rankings, but Yankees may hold pitching edge

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The Houston Astros rank higher in Box-Toppers team rankings, though the New York Yankees hold an advantage in starting pitching and top-10 ranked players as they face off in the American League Championship Series starting Friday.

Below are position-by-position match-ups of each player likely in the starting line-ups for both teams, along with the likely four starting pitchers and closing pitcher, plus the top extra active pitcher. Also listed are each player’s Box-Toppers points earned in 2017, along with their overall rank among all players.

The Astros rank fourth in Box-Toppers team rankings with its players accumulating 131.7 Box-Toppers points in 2017. They ranked second among all AL teams, behind the Cleveland Indians (140.9), the team the Yankees eliminated in the AL Division Series. The Yankees rank just behind the Astros, fifth among all teams and third among AL teams, with 121.7 points.

The Astros finished the season slightly hotter than the Yankees, earning 9.2 points in the season’s final days. The Yankees earned 7.7 points in that span.

Among the probable key players in the chart below, the Astros also hold the advantage. The 15 Astros players listed there have 93.5 Box-Toppers points, while the Yankees’ 15 players have 89.7. The Astros hold the advantage among the nine likely starting batters (39.9-33.4). However, the Yankees frontline pitchers have more Box-Toppers points than the Astros (56.3-53.6). Further, the Yankees hold a distinct advantage among the four likely starting pitchers (48.6-39.2).

Much of the Yankees’ pitching advantage is because of Luis Severino, the player with the highest Box-Toppers point total on either team. Severino had 21.1 Box-Toppers points in 2017, seventh among all players and fourth among AL pitchers. Severino is slated to start Game 2 Saturday in Houston.

Other key players in the series:

  • Justin Verlander leads all Astros with 14.7 Box-Toppers points, ranked 16th among all players and sixth among AL pitchers. Verlander was acquired Aug. 31 from the Tigers—he earned 6.0 points with the Astros since the trade. Verlander was Box-Toppers 2012 Player of the Year when he was with the Tigers, leading all players with 24.8 Box-Toppers points. Verlander is slated to start Game 2 Saturday in Houston.
  • Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees, Friday’s starter, has 11.4 Box-Toppers points, 23rd among all players and eighth among AL pitchers.
  • Aaron Judge of the Yankees has the most Box-Toppers points among batters on either team (11.2). That ranks 26th overall and second among AL batters (behind Edwin Encarnacion of the Indians, who has 12.1). While Judge is highly ranked and is likely to win AL Rookie of the Year and receive consideration for AL Most Valuable Player, he has not fared well in his six postseason games, striking out 16 times, hitting only one home run (after 52 in the regular season) and batting only .125.
  • Josh Reddick leads all Astros batters with 8.0 Box-Toppers points, 75th among all players and third among AL outfielders.
  • Jose Altuve of the Astros, considered a favorite to win AL Most Valuable Player, only has 2.5 Box-Toppers points in 2017. While he leads the AL in hits (204) and batting average (.346), he only earned Box-Toppers Player of the Game honors in two Astros wins this season—July 24 and Sept. 2. (But it should be noted that Altuve was also Player of the Game in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.) Players like Altuve, who hit for less power (he had 67 extra-base hits among his 204), tend to earn fewer Box-Toppers points, as Player of the Game honors often go to power hitters, or more frequently, pitchers who allow few hits, walks and strike out a lot of batters. Still, Altuve had far more Box-Toppers points in 2016 (12.5, when he ranked third among AL batters) even though he had very similar numbers to this year (216 hits, 71 extra-base hits, .338 batting average). One difference between 2016 and 2017—Altuve had far fewer runs batted in this year (81) than last year (96).
  • Astros closer Ken Giles has 5.0 Box-Toppers points while Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has only 1.7, earning Player of the Game honors only once this season. Chapman has struggled this season, though he may be back to his dominant form (he ranks second among all active closers from 2012-2017 with 45.1 points)—he was Player of the Game in the Yankees’ AL Division Series Game 5 win over the Indians.

The Astros were the AL’s dominant team from May until early August this season, when they were overtaken by the surging Cleveland Indians in Box-Toppers team rankings. The Astros rose briefly back into the lead among AL teams in Box-Toppers rankings on Aug. 31, after acquiring Verlander from the Tigers. The Astros slipped behind the Indians in the closing weeks of the season, finishing fourth overall, second among AL teams. They beat the Red Sox in the AL Division Series in four games.

Astros Players of the Game in the AL Division Series were Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel and George Springer.

The Yankees got off to a fast early start this season and led AL teams in Box-Toppers team rankings from April 27 to May 11 and spent much of the rest of the season battling the Red Sox in the AL East. While they eventually finished behind the Red Sox in the standings, they finished ahead in final Box-Toppers team rankings, with the Yankees in fifth place overall and the Red Sox in seventh. The Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians in the AL Division Series in five games.

Yankees Players of the Game in the postseason so far are David Robertson (AL Wild Card Game), Masahiro Tanaka (Game 3 ALDS), Tommy Kahnle (Game 4 ALDS) and Aroldis Chapman (Game 5 ALDS)

American League Championship Series Game 1, Yankees at Astros

The pitching matchup Friday:

Yankees—Masahiro Tanaka, 11.4 Box-Toppers points, 23rd among all players, eighth among AL pitchers.

Astros—Dallas Keuchel, 9.4 Box-Toppers points, 48th among all players, 15th among AL pitchers.

About Box-Toppers—Box-Toppers tracks who most helps their team win the most games. Using standard box score statistics, Box-Toppers uses a simple formula to determine a Player of the Game for each Major League Baseball game played. That player is the person who contributed most to his team’s win. In regular season games, players earn 1.0 Box-Toppers point for being named Player of the Game and can earn bonus points for being Player of the Day or top player or batter in their league for the day.

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AL Championship Series player comparisons

Likely starting players for the Yankees and Astros listed by position with their Box-Toppers point total (BTP) for the 2017 regular season and their overall rank among all players:  


Yankees BTP Rank Astros BTP Rank
1B Greg Bird 3.5 311 Yuli Gurriel 2.7 384
2B Starlin Castro 5.0 189 Jose Altuve 2.5 387
SS Didi Gregorius 2.0 447 Carlos Correa 7.0 100
3B Todd Frazier 1.5 529 Alex Bregman 3.0 345
CA Gary Sanchez 3.5 299 Brian McCann 4.0 250
CF Aaron Hicks 3.0 351 George Springer 5.0 192
LF Brett Gardner 1.7 517 Marwin Gonzalez 6.7 115
RF Aaron Judge 11.2 26 Josh Reddick 8.0 75
DH Chase Headley 2.0 431 Evan Gattis 1.0 561
SP Luis Severino 21.1 7 Justin Verlander 14.7 16
SP Sonny Gray 8.4 68 Dallas Keuchel 9.4 48
SP CC Sabathia 7.7 82 Brad Peacock 7.4 92
SP Masahiro Tanaka 11.4 23 Charlie Morton 7.7 83
CP Aroldis Chapman 1.7 511 Ken Giles 5.0 203
PI David Robertson 6.0 134 Lance McCullers 9.4 49